Recently Superintendent David McGehee joined with other superintendents to put forth a plan on the school transfer issue. Missouri Rep. Mike Cierpoit has a recommended plan as well. Do you support either of these plan and why?
I support of the New Path to Excellence plan put forward by the Missouri Association of School Administrators because it is a thoughtful approach focused on helping schools improve so they can better educate students without transferring students out of their home districts. I firmly believe that is what is best for students. I am concerned about elements of any plan that could divert money from public education to be used in private schools because that will only weaken Missouri’s public education system over time. I also am opposed to any plan that would transfer any financial burden to R-7 taxpayers to educate students that are transferred into our district.
A recent Lee’s Summit R-7 audit revealed mostly good news, with some exceptions in how the district conducts competitive bids. Are you familiar with this audit and does it signal some needed changes?
I am familiar with the audit and proud that the R-7 District was referred to by the state auditor as “the best-run district of all the school districts” he had audited. The audit was a cooperative process between the State Auditor’s office and R-7 administrative staff. As suggestions were made by the audit team during the course of the audit, administrative staff immediately began implementing process improvements where it made sense. I feel that our district is always looking for ways to change and improve operations to make sure we are spending public education dollars wisely. The R-7 district offers exception educational value to Lee’s Summit students and residents and their ability to change and improve will keep that value strong for years to come.
How is the district poised for future growth in existing school buildings and, perhaps, with new construction?
I feel we are well positioned for future growth. Long range demographic planning continues to forecast modest student growth over the next 5-10 years that will require new construction. The comprehensive planning process for those projects has already begun to ensure future buildings and programs will support the high quality education our students and patrons expect. I participate on the Future High School Options process team that is looking at options for expanding capacity at the high school level to support student growth. I am pleased that the district is taking the time to involve students, teachers and the community as we look at what options are available through emerging technology to better support learning and teachers in our high schools in the future.
Cost containment has worked well in recent years following the failed school bond issue. With state funding seemingly always in limbo, what financial measures can the district continue to take to stay healthy?
Cost containment efforts since the failed levy attempt have allowed the district to maintain a strong reserve, but I would argue that the strength of a school district should not be judged solely by the bottom line. Cost containment efforts may have helped us avert a financial crisis, but they have also had a long term impact on our students and teachers. I support the district’s efforts to continue to budget conservatively while reinstating cuts that have a positive impact on student achievement. We need to continue to invest in our teachers, our curriculum and the resources available in schools, while balancing that investment against the need for a strong bottom line.